Restoration of historic Fort Ward bakery building begins today

Friends and supporters,

And so, we begin. After more than three years of fundraising, friend raising, planning and public review, work starts today on restoration of Fort Ward’s historic bakery building. When we’re done – sometime, we hope, late in 2018 – the island will have a new historic meeting hall, interpretive site, and monument to local heritage preservation: Fort Ward Community Hall.  

It’s a big moment, and we want to share it with you, our supporters, and reflect on how we got this far.

First off, we need to acknowledge out project partners, the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District (our general contractor) and Kitsap County (Fort Ward) Sewer District No. 7 (building owner and as such, cornerstone investor). When we presented this idea to the Park District at a neighborhood meeting at “Station S” back in 2015, they signed on without hesitation to contribute horsepower and expertise. And the project is only possible because our neighborhood utility district had the foresight to purchase the bakery building for a community space back in 2007, many years before we even had a plan to bring it about.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wenzlau Architects, Browne Wheeler Engineering, and Fischer Bouma Partnership landscape architects. The cost just to get to groundbreaking has been high; it would have been considerably higher but for the generous contributions and considerable expertise of these three island firms. We’re particularly indebted to Charlie and Ariel at Wenzlau for helping us through the permitting process – necessarily rigorous, sometimes frustrating, ultimately successful. Thank you both.

Bainbridge Island Rotary was an early and key supporter through its Judd Huney Fund. Bainbridge Community Foundation, Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation and the Suquamish Foundation have also made outstanding contributions, as have local businesses including Fairy Tale Dental, T&C, ACE Hardware and OTWB Inc.

The City’s Historic Preservation Commission played its role, shepherding changes to the city code that cut red tape and permit costs for historic building restorations like ours.

Neighborhood kids – our Fort Ward Youth Board, versions 1.0 and 2.0 – brought the enthusiasm and vigor of youth to our outreach.

And of course, we thank the many donors – dozens of island families and individuals – who have invested both funds and faith in the project. It takes vision and trust to support a capital campaign whose horizon has been, to this point, somewhat hazy. We’re grateful to all who have latched onto the Fort Ward bakery building and its history, subscribed to the idea that our local heritage is worth preserving, and given generously to help create a  community hall to complement those at Island Center, Seabold, and Yeomalt.

We now set out to reward your faith. Groundbreaking (if that is right term for a building renovation – we may have to shovel some dirt just for the occasion) commences today.

The first phase will see a “controlled demolition” – undoing all of the changes made to the building over the decades, with the goal of restoring it to its original, 1910 glory. Some of these tasks will be relatively easy and cheap: taking down the carport, tearing out interior walls and flooring, peeling away the tumbledown porches that have been grafted on front and back and mar the classic facade. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll contract with an expert in masonry restoration to reopen to full depth those big windows bricked over by the Navy in the 1940s and address smaller needs.

Materials will be recycled and reused wherever possible. Anything of salvage value will be repurposed within the building, made available on the used-materials market, or offered to islanders for a small donation to the project. This will include everything from doors and windows to the vintage pink sinks and matching bathtub. If you have a construction project coming up – be it a mother-in-law apartment or just a backyard chicken coop – and are looking for used materials, drop us a line. We might have something for you – funky perhaps, but with an interesting provenance.

Then comes the more formidable task of restoration. While much of that work will be relatively straightforward, we’re already learning that some will be more involved and expensive than we anticipated. Example: Sometime over the years, a misguided resident hammered away two of the hewn sandstone sills on the north side of the building. That damage will be laid bare as the carport comes down. Sourcing replacements (even reproductions) will run into many thousands of dollars – but we believe these ornamental sills are absolutely essential to an accurate and acceptable restoration of this beautiful, architecturally striking building. Other surprises and challenges may await.

Are we done raising funds? No – we’ll need more contributions to complete the restoration and dedicate the hall for public use. The outstanding financial need will come into clearer focus as we get work underway and start checking off each task one by one. We’ll economize where we can. But if you have considered supporting this project with a contribution, or would like to make another gift, this is the time. We’re moving from idea to actuation. The Fort Ward Community Hall is really happening – starting now.

We believe the community will come together in our capstone phase and help us complete the project this year, with tax-deductible contributions through Friends of Fort Ward (our all-volunteer, neighborhood 501(c)3), One Call For All, and our local Foundations. Follow our progress at www.fortwardhall.org and wwwfacebook.com/friendsoffortward.

With permits in hand, a respectable fund balance and an expert restoration team ready to go, now is the time. And so, we begin. We hope you’ll follow along, and we carry your support and good wishes with us.

– Douglas Crist, Candy Merifield, Ellie Montaperto, Christina Doherty, Wesley Dreiling and Kate Merifield, Friends of Fort Ward